The ever-increasing number of data centres in Ireland are making it “very difficult” to cut carbon emissions, a clean energy expert has said.
Last week, Amazon was granted planning permission for three new data centres in north County Dublin.
Currently, roughly one fifth of all energy in Ireland is consumed by data centres and some projections have forecast it will reach 30% by the year 2030.
Speaking to The Pat Kenny Show, UCC’s Dr Paul Dean said the proliferation of data centres is the direct result of Government policy.
“What’s in it for Ireland is money and cash,” he said.
“We bring in a lot of revenue from the co-location of data centres here into Ireland
“The Government haven’t released any figures in terms of what it offers us in terms of tax revenues but a lot of these companies will have their headquarters here in Ireland, so the co-location of data centres makes a lot of sense from that perspective.”
Supporters of data centres note they are essential for almost every aspect of modern life; they are used to store and process everything from medical records to banking payments.
Opponents, by contrast, argue the centres simply use too much energy - sometimes more than entire towns.
“They are outpacing the development of renewables here in Ireland and that means they are putting extra strain on the residual fossil fuel system,” Dr Dean said.
“Everything is well and good when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining - we’ve been quite successful in Ireland at slowly moving away from fossil fuels.
“But the challenge, of course, is the days when it’s not very windy, when it’s not very sunny.
“Data centres, like the rest of us, are consuming large amounts of fossil fuels and that’s releasing greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere and that runs in direct contravention to our climate target legislation.
“That’s the crux of the issue here, it’s very difficult to grow our demand for electricity and reduce our greenhouse gas pollution at the same time.”
The Government aims to produce 80% of Ireland’s energy from renewable sources by 2030 and to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Main image: Construction of Facebook's new Data Centre in Damastown, Dublin. Picture by: Alamy.com